a green and white truck next to a trash can
Monroe County is negotiating a new contract with trash hauling companies. File photo

County officials are in the midst of negotiations for a new contract with the three trash hauling companies that handle the dirty work, as the previous 10-year contract runs out this year.

When the dust settles, the county residential trash bill will most likely go up, but the total can’t exceed an increase of $91 per year. 

In a 5-0 vote May 15, the Board of County Commissioners tentatively approved a 20% increase – $91 more per year for an annual total of about $550 per household. 

Officials had to put down a number for the Truth in Millage (TRIM) tax notices, so they can still reduce that figure, but now can’t exceed it. 

The BOCC will set the final rate in August for a 5-year contract. Their next regular meeting is July 17 in Marathon, since they take June off. 

The current annual household bill for trash, recycling and yard waste pickup plus disposal is $457 per year. 

Key West and Islamorada have their own contracts with haulers like Waste Management and Island Disposal Company. The rest of the county is covered by Waste Management, Marathon Garbage Service and Keys Sanitary. The companies negotiate together with the county. 

County staff had recommended a 10% increase – a bump of $45.71– that would add up to $502.86 per year for 35,200 homes serviced by the county contract. That would amount to a $17.7 million trash contract overall. 

After discussion, the BOCC settled on 20% after commissioner Craig Cates, of Key West, asked for 18%, calling it fair. 

“Our garbage companies do an incredible job,” Cates said. “We gave them a special increase of 12% two years ago to help compensate for that. They deserved it.”

Commissioners noted the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which in April the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported had risen 3.4% over the last 12 months, plus the rising cost of workforce housing in the Keys and the garbage haulers’ working conditions. 

“I get how difficult it is for these businesses to find employees to do a job that no one wants to do,” said commissioner Michelle Lincoln, of Marathon.

A 10% increase just isn’t enough, Waste Management district manager Greg Sullivan said. 

“The cost of trucks, labor and fuel, it’s expensive,” Sullivan said. “And I don’t have to tell you how much it costs to live down here.” 

Sullivan manages Waste Management’s business from Stock Island up to the Seven Mile Bridge. He has 74 employees, including the hourly workers who ride the trucks hauling out rotting garbage for shifts up to 10 hours.

“Last week when it rained 7 inches, guess where my guys were?” Sullivan told Keys Weekly. “Out in the street today, the heat index was 103. Guess where they are?”

Commissioners have shown interest in changing pickups to only once a week and providing a new 96-gallon trash can to each household.

Sullivan said the trucks average 85 miles per day, four days per week. They have to make two pickups a week under the current contract. 

“We do 100 tons on Monday and Tuesday each day and we only do 40 tons on Thursday and Friday,” Sullivan said. “It’s a lot of windshield time. We still have to go up and down every street.”

Gwen Filosa
Gwen Filosa is The Keys Weekly’s Digital Editor, and has covered Key West news, culture and assorted oddities since she moved to the island in 2011. She was previously a reporter for the Miami Herald and WLRN public radio. Before moving to the Keys, Gwen was in New Orleans for a decade, covering criminal courts for The Times-Picayune. In 2006, the paper’s staff won the Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news and the Public Service Medal for their coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She remains a devout Saints fan. She has a side hustle as a standup comedian, and has been a regular at Comedy Key West since 2017. She is also an acclaimed dogsitter, professional Bingo caller and a dedicated Wilco fan.